Difference between Personnel Management and Human Resource Management

Many students of management and laypeople often hear the term HR or Human Resource Management and wonder about the difference between HR and the traditional term Personnel Management. In earlier times, the Personnel Manager of a factory or firm was the person in charge of ensuring employee welfare and interceding between the management and the employees. In recent times, the term has been replaced with HR manager. This article looks at the differences in usage and scope of functions as well as the underlying theory behind these nomenclatures. In the section on introducing HRM, we briefly looked at the main differences. We shall look into them in more detail here.

Personnel Management

Traditionally the term personnel management was used to refer to the set of activities concerning the workforce which included staffing, payroll, contractual obligations and other administrative tasks. In this respect, personnel management encompasses the range of activities that are to do with managing the workforce rather than resources. Personnel Management is more administrative in nature and the Personnel Manager’s main job is to ensure that the needs of the workforce as they pertain to their immediate concerns are taken care of. Further, personnel managers typically played the role of mediators between the management and the employees and hence there was always the feeling that personnel management was not in tune with the objectives of the management.

Human Resource Management

With the advent of resource-centric organizations in recent decades, it has become imperative to put “people first” as well as secure management objectives of maximizing the ROI (Return on Investment) on the resources. This has led to the development of the modern HRM function which is primarily concerned with ensuring the fulfilment of management objectives and at the same time ensuring that the needs of the resources are taken care of. In this way, HRM differs from personnel management not only in its broader scope but also in the way in which its mission is defined. HRM goes beyond the administrative tasks of personnel management and encompasses a broad vision of how management would like the resources to contribute to the success of the organization.

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